Donald Trump’s nominee to run the CIA has been confirmed by the US Senate – despite concerns about his approach to torture, surveillance and Russia.
Mike Pompeo will take charge at a crucial time – after the new US president’s ugly war of words with intelligence chiefs over claims of Russian interference designed to help him win last year’s election.
The former military man was confirmed by 66 votes to 32 – although Democrats raised concerns about his “vague” and “contradictory” answers during confirmation hearings.
Senator Ron Wyden said Mr Pompeo – a backer of the Republican Tea Party movement – was the “wrong man for the job”.
He said: “He has endorsed extreme policies that would fundamentally erode liberties and freedoms of our people without making us safer.
“I see no real commitment to transparency and his views on the most fundamental analysis of the day – the involvement of Russia in our election – seemed to shift with those of the president.
“We need a CIA director who is direct about his beliefs and his assessments.”
Senator Richard Burr – Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee – accused Democrats of playing politics in an effort to delay the appointment.
Mr Trump made the CIA’s Langley, Virginia, HQ one of his first stops as President after his inauguration.
In an apparent attempt to build bridges with US spies, he stood in front of a memorial for fallen CIA agents and assured senior officials, “I am so behind you”.
But the speech made headlines for the billionaire’s attack on the media – who he falsely accused of lying about the size of crowds at his inauguration in Washington DC.
Mr Trump made no mention of his public challenges of the assessment of Russian meddling in the White House race – which had culminated with a comparison between intelligence officials and Nazis.
The President’s controversial secretary of state pick Rex Tillerson also edged closer to confirmation – making it past the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by 11 votes to 10.
Republicans and Democrats alike had expressed concerns about Mr Tillerson’s connections to Russia and Vladimir Putin from his time as chief executive of oil giant ExxonMobil.
Several senators also questioned whether the Texan would be sufficiently committed to maintaining sanctions against Russia – as even congressional Republicans promised to investigate claims that Mr Putin had meddled in November’s election to benefit Mr Trump.